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Warmth

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It’s odd, Radha thinks to herself, how different parts of the world can be from one another. While the streets of Toronto are as crowded with people as the markets back in New Delhi, that is the only similarity the two share. The differences could not be more vast. Instead of the heat of the sun, now there is snow falling down from a dark afternoon sky and chilly winds brushing against the skin she does not have covered up. Instead of stalls selling spices and saris, now there are department stores selling seasonal clothes and expensive make-up. Instead of crowded buildings that still allowed for a glimpse of the sky, now there are skyscrapers that loom like giants with hundreds of flickering eyes. Radha has yet to get used to their intimidating and constricting presence.

“Radha, hurry up!” Sita is waiting for her in front of a coffee shop and Radha thinks with a smile that she was wrong. The populated spaces are not the only thing India and Canada have in common. There is also Sita, still running ahead of Radha with her boundless enthusiasm and bright spirit, except now she is wearing earmuffs and a winter coat and mittens—all things she never had to wear before—and things she almost didn’t wear, having left their apartment in only a light jacket before, appalled, Radha had pulled her back in to change.

She’s grateful that she did. It’s a very cold night, the temperature’s one of the lowest of that winter. (Radha would not have minded if she’d gone through life never experiencing what it was like to be a frozen block of ice.) Sita does not seem to be bothered by the cold as much, barely even appearing like she’s aware of it as her breath fogs from her mouth into a cloud and she turns to look into the coffee shop, but Radha does not want to risk either of them getting sick. Money is too tight. They are barely scrapping by as it is.

Pushing her worries to the side, Radha joins Sita in front of the coffee shop. The inside is more dimly lit than she had been expecting, but there is a warm, sleepy glow that makes the scene of activity within the shop hazy to look at, reminding Radha of a dream she had once of a moving painting. There are people sitting at tables and walking about the space. There is a counter at the far back with a group of workers behind it to sell the beverages. Pastries are displayed behind the glass underneath the countertops, consisting of cakes, macaroons, and brownies. There is a fireplace at the left side of the shop that catches Radha’s eye. There is an empty table for two near it.

Radha is about to comment on this, but then she feels a pull on her scarf, tugging her head to the side, and then Sita’s lips are pressing a kiss to her cheek.

“Sita!” Radha pulls away in shock.

Sita smiles at her. “It’s alright, Radha. People don’t mind here, remember?”

Radha wraps her scarf tighter around her face to cover up her cheeks, which feel flushed with embarrassment in addition to the cold. While that works to prevent Sita from giving her another kiss, it doesn’t keep Sita from wrapping an arm around her back and nuzzling her face into the scarf. Radha is all too aware that anyone inside the coffee shop can look out at any time and see them standing on the other side of the window, but rather than giving in to the urge to turn away, she closes her eyes and lets herself relax. For the first time ever since they stepped outside, she feels warm.

“We should sit by the fire,” she says.

Sita draws away and takes her hand. “Let’s go.”